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Syrian Kurds accuse Turkey of ethnic cleansing in Afrin region: Report

Syrian Kurds in the country’s northwestern Afrin region have accused Turkey of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the residents of the enclave as Turkish forces intensify their military aggression against the region.  

According to a Saturday report by the British broadcaster Sky News, funerals of the war victims are now a daily occurrence in Afrin, with residents burying the bodies of civilians, including children, and Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces in a sparsely populated farmland on the outskirts of Afrin city.

The morgue of Afrin’s main hospital is filled with bodies, and many patients are being treated for extensive injuries caused by shelling and airstrikes, the report says.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to expand the offensive to key YPG-controlled border towns right up to the Iraqi frontier.

"Once we have purged the terrorists (from Afrin) we will then cleanse them from Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ra’s al-Ayn and Qamishli," he said in televised comments.

The town of Manbij, east of Afrin, is considered a key flashpoint in any future conflict due to the US military presence in the area.

Meanwhile, Turkish forces have reached the outskirts of the city of Afrin, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. 

The UK-based monitoring group added that Turkey and allied Syrian militant groups it supports were advancing on Afrin from the east under intense bombardment.

Turkey has been waging “Operation Olive Branch” against Syria’s Afrin region since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG, which forms the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that enjoys US support. The Turkish government views the YPG as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group. The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

A father comforts his wounded son who was injured during Turkish airstrikes against the Syrian northwestern city of Afrin on February 20, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

According to Syria's official news agency SANA, some 222 civilians, most of whom women and children, have been killed and 700 others injured in the 50 days of Turkish shelling and airstrikes.

According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over one million civilians face an "unknown fate" as Turkey is laying siege to the region.

Turkish forces took over the town of Jindires in southern Afrin on Thursday, removing a major obstacle on the road to Afrin’s largest urban center.

The pro-Syrian government forces entered Afrin late February to repel Turkey’s offensive.

This is the first time that Syrian government forces have been deployed in the region since 2012 when the YPG held the area under its control.

In the absence of Syrian air cover, the YPG is defenseless against Turkish airstrikes, which pave the way for ground forces to advance.

The Syrian government has already condemned the “brutal Turkish aggression” against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

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